Wolfgang Puck: 'Waiters make $120,000 a year but I can't find them'
The award-winning celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck is not immune to the labor shortage in the catering industry.
The two-Michelin-starred chef told Yahoo Finance Live that he still hasn't been able to reopen some of his 20+ restaurants around the world, like the Cartier in Beverly Hills, because he doesn't have enough workers.
"People get paid really well," said Puck. “Still, it is difficult to find people to work. It's the same with Chinois in Santa Monica. I can't open at noon. Or even at Spago in Beverly Hills, where people, waiters, make $ 120,000 a year. But I can't find it. "
Puck's plight has become a well-known issue in recent months. The restaurant industry has filled 1.7 million fewer jobs than it did before the pandemic - the highest on record - despite the salary increase and the posting of nearly a million jobs in March.
Millions of workers who left the industry during the pandemic did not come back for a variety of reasons, including safety concerns. Republicans attribute the labor crisis to the move by the Biden administration to increase additional federal unemployment benefits. Business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, say the supplemental unemployment insurance is preventing some employees from returning to work.
Puck said it was "difficult to get back to normal business".
“The demand is definitely there. We get enough customers, but we can't serve them. In an upscale environment, you have to offer people good food and great service. It is therefore difficult to find enough people. "
Puck, whose net worth is estimated at $ 90 million, points to immigration-related issues as part of the reason he can't find skilled workers.
“I think the government should really loosen up and let cooks come, be it from France or Italy or South America or wherever, so we can get the workforce up to par. If they're professional, why not get jobs? And then they pay taxes and everything will be better, ”said Puck.
Wolfgang Puck's Spago Restaurant at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.
Puck said varying COVID-19 restrictions and the pace of the virus in certain regions have resulted in an uneven return to business.
His restaurant CUT in Bahrain, for example, could not reopen because the small island nation has seen coronavirus cases rise to record levels recently.
But its Las Vegas restaurants just had a record month after COVID-related restrictions were lifted in Nevada.
Puck, who also has his line of cookware, wine, coffee and cookbooks of the same name, is considering opening “ghost kitchens” for some of his locations to handle pick-up and delivery services.
"Takeout is not our main business," he emphasized. "Our main business is to keep the customer, to make the customer happy in our restaurant, to make them feel good, to offer them good food and great service."
Despite all this, Puck, who has a documentary debuting on Disney + on June 25th, documenting his rise to cooking star, remains optimistic. “I really think people will be back in September. People are going to have parties. People will go out like they used to. "
Alexis Christoforous is an anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @AlexisTVNews.
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